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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Nollywood Director Fred Amata @ 50

Nollywood Director and actor, Fred Amata has come a long way. He has also come of age. Fred turns 50 today and he’s more than happy, he is excited. In this exclusive interview with The Entertainer, Fred Amata takes a look back at his life and agrees that it’s worth celebrating. Excerpts:

director and actor, Fred Amata has come a long way. He has also come of age. Fred turns 50 today and he’s more than happy, he is excited. In this exclusive interview with The Entertainer, Fred Amata takes a look back at his life and agrees that it’s worth celebrating. Excerpts:

If you take a holistic look at it, what comes to your mind now that you turn 50?
Generally, I look at a journey that has been unique mostly by the grace of God, I discovered that a lot of things just come to me not because of… and when they don’t come to me I hardly feel it. I am the type of person you could describe as being content. You see that song, Content, means a lot to me.
When you say content, does that mean not settling for less?
I am content with what I have, little be it or much.
At 50, apart from being content, are you happy?
More than happy! I am excited. Why else would I be celebrating if I’m not? I am excited. Yes, I will say I am happy.
Do you still dance?
I can’t stop dancing. Part of the reason why I originally started this is because I wanted to dance but the story became a lot more. I still dance a lot, I still dance normally; I dance a lot.
I saw you at Encomium ‘White and Groove’ party and you were everywhere…?
You will see me dancing again tomorrow on the pitch; I’ll be doing a Roger Mila dance. We have a party again; I am going to be dancing. I don’t think I am going to stop dancing.
Any regrets?
They’ve asked me that question in months honestly speaking, and I have come to answer it like this because it actually captures how I feel. I usually see regrets as temporary because a lot of times you regret something and want it to be different but when you take your time to measure it against time, you find out that what you thought you regretted is best exactly how you regretted it. So, there’s no regret essentially.
I saw you for the first time some years ago. Between then and now most of your colleagues have fallen by the wayside. Between that time and now what have you been able to do to evolve with time and still be reckoned with?
The way I understand your question is ‘maintaining relevance’ and if you look at my history well, you will realize that I am not in as many productions as my other colleagues so to speak. People nowadays tend to see it as a ‘bigger guy’ but before this time I probably used to do as many films, which is like one or two films a year, and I maintain my relevance with that. But in recent times, maybe its just a little less but the challenge being the kind of jobs, productions that are available and the kind of productions that I aspire to do, and its complicated further by the amount of funds available to achieving the goals. A lot of times even when you feel this is a job I can do and its all good, the money is bad and they can’t even get off the ground or when they get off the ground there is no end. At the end of the day, it affects production value. So, I have been careful in selecting the jobs that we have done. In terms of relevance, I will say the revolution in Nigeria now is going towards the cinema, the cinematic films; it’s in the cinema that your true worth is truly tested. We have pursued that and I am proud to say that I belong to a production that has truly gone international, Black November, which would be coming out soon, it was suppose to be out last year. It’s huge and for me its about the biggest production out of Africa in terms of the Nollywood phenomenal, and hopefully by the time its out, people will understand exactly what I am saying. So, that way we are able to select the relevant jobs that will make us relevant.
I learnt that the studio abroad actually dismantled the production that Jeta (Amata) did and started all over again?
Which studio abroad? The studio abroad that is handling the production is Jeta and Wes, which is owned by Jeta Amata and Wes Ekubong. There is no influence whatsoever in production, finances, or in anything that is coming from America; they are all coming from Nigeria. So, that rumour is false. Wes and Jeta is a production company that runs into the production of Black November right from Nigeria here; that rumour is false.
He didn’t re-shoot the movie abroad?
He re-shot bits of the movie, the bits were his personal decision and there were other bits that were shot. Scenes that have been shot four years ago in Makurdi are still in the film. The reason for re-shoot is different from what people are making it out to be and the reason for re-shoot is to reach into the American market. They advised us to get an A-list actor, twist it and put in. Then we went and sought out Rich Rook who took the role and we re-shot it.
Which other A-list actors were there?
We have Akon, Wyclef, Vivica Fox, Ann Herch (we don’t know her much here but she’s big in Hollywood), and White, who won Best Actress award in Pan African Film Festival a year ago, Fred Amata, ZZZ Nzuki, and OC Ukeje.
I am sure you will be surprised if I didn’t ask you this question. Looking back, whatever happened in your marriage, will it get to…?
(Cuts in) I won’t answer that question.
I am not asking you about…? 
(Cuts in) No, no, no. I don’t answer any question in whatever disguise that has to do with my personal life and marriage. So, please oblige me.
Okay, have you remarried? The reason I am asking is because…?
(Cuts in) I have not remarried, I can answer you that.
I am sure you read the papers where it was reported that you married one woman?
Oblige me. Wetin concern me…(general laughter).
What else should we expect from you at 50?
Hmmm. They say life begins at 40 but nowadays life begins at 50. As you can see, I do not look like 50. If you look closely at people turning 50, you will find out that they are looking more youthful, more energetic and that is what we are trying to say.
Should we expect more from you production wise?
Of course! Definitely! What the whole celebration has also taught me is that I actually should be going back to my roots, handling stage production and movies. You are going to be seeing a lot more of that.
Are you happy at the state of Nollywood?
Nollywood is blah, blah, blah (noisy).
What went wrong with your company?
It has to do with the increasing problem in Nollywood. Nollywood is a very complex industry. It has to do with the understanding of the practitioners against the challenges of the market, challenges of the environment, misunderstandings and a lot of…whatever.
Why were you not at AMAA?
I was not invited, my invites didn’t get to me and they accused me of not attending. But I cannot be blamed for their distribution error.